Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~Halloween Doesn’t Have to be Scary!~ October 31, 2013

halloweenI’m  not familiar with the customs in the rest of the world, but today, in the good ole US of A…it is Halloween.

I have to admit, this is my least favorite “holiday.”  (I can hear your fingers flying across the keys as you fire off your hate mail, just hear me out.)  First off, I am the biggest chicken you will ever meet.  I don’t do haunted houses, scary costumes or bloody make-up and I certainly don’t watch scary movies.  No.  It creeps me out and gives me nightmares for days.  Yes I am a grown woman and I know the difference in real and make believe but I see little reason to intentionally put myself in the path of a zombie, Freddy Crougar or Michael Meyers….not happening people.  Secondly, name one other time when we would allow our children to take candy from strangers?!  I can recall numerous conversations as a child with my mom preaching at me to do the exact opposite.  A stranger offers you candy, run away!  (hahaha)

However, seeing as how I have 5 children to answer to, naturally they would all like to participate in the same festivities as their friends.  So how does this freak-out mom handle this day?  The oldest daughter will be dressed in coordinating costumes with her 2 best friends and hitting the safest neighborhood in town.  The rest of us will all be at a family members house, munching on themed snacks and throwing goodies in the bags of eager little trick-or-treaters.  No blood, no gore.

For those of you participating in the night’s activities, at whatever capacity, how about you don’t let the darkness win?  Whatever you believe about the origin of Halloween, whether it be pagan or not, shine the light of Jesus.  God can even take something created for evil and use it for good.  I’ve seen Him do it, time and time again.

I pray you all have a safe and enjoyable evening.  And please, oh please, if you are dressed as any of the above characters do not sneak up on me, I will not be held accountable for my reactions!

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”  

-Plato

 

~Irony With a Side of Coffee~ October 30, 2013

progressIt was 6:45 on Tuesday morning and I was attempting to get a little Jesus time.  Problem was, I have two little girls who were dead set on interrupting my quiet time.  Just when I thought I’d found my happy place, one of the intruders burst into a string of demands.

So, with my Unglued book in hand, how do you suppose I handled this invasion of mommy time?

“Will you ever stop?!”  I snipped at my chubby cheek girl.  Her response…she giggled.

And so did I.

You see, I had just that very moment sat reading about raw emotions and not allowing uncontrollable circumstances to dictate my reactions and I failed, epic fail as my children would say.  So I had a choice to make, I could let this slip up ruin the remainder of the day or I could show myself a little grace and move on with my life.

On this particular day, I chose grace.  I pushed aside my study materials, scooped Bella up and went to the kitchen to fix her a snack, a cup of juice and fired up her favorite movie.  I didn’t get to finish all that I wanted to accomplish in my bible study guide but I did get the opportunity to apply what we are studying about.  I like to think of it as life application.

I am so incredibly guilty of allowing unexpected interruptions to define how my day will go.  I am aware that this bit of information shows just how much of an OCD control freak I can be, and I am ok with that BECAUSE admitting that is a step in the right direction.  Learning to adjust my reactions when things don’t go just as I imagined is a process.

Thankfully I am not going through it alone.

“So be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid and do not panic before them.  For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.

He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

(Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

I’m not about to say that I won’t ever have a meltdown again over some random, uncontrollable glitch in my day.  I am human.  I will make mistakes.  But by God’s grace I will move forward, not backwards.  I will press on towards my goal of being a calmer, more easy-going version of myself.  I will learn to accept that I am not master of the universe and the fate of the world does not rest squarely on my shoulders.

 

~Beware, Unchecked Emotions On the Loose~ October 24, 2013

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Yesterday, a small group of women from my church started the bible study, “Unglued” by Lysa TerKeurst.  For those of you who either know me really well or even just through this blog, you are aware of my ability to sometimes spew my emotions onto my family.  My hopes are that through this study, I will learn to stop letting my feelings get the best of me in life’s tricky situations and use God’s word to combat my raw emotions before I allow them to sabotage my most valuable relationships.

Before we’d even left the church yesterday, I knew there was something from the guide that I would be sharing with you all today!  Lysa gave us a list of “animals,” asking which described us best when faced with an unglued kind of situation:

Wounded bear:  I am hurt & unpredictable, so watch out!

Agitated skunk:  I may or may not create a stink, but the threat is always there.

Deceptive peacock:  Who me?  I’m not upset.  Look at all my pretty feathers!

Crouching tiger:  I many not attack now, but I will strike back when you least expect it.

Screech owl:  Prepare for a tirade!

Barricading beaver:  No time to say what I’m really feeling.  I’m too busy building a wall between us.

Or maybe you are another animal altogether.

Here is what I found interesting about this word picture, I am a different animal depending on who I am dealing with.

Outside of my home, especially in church, you are going to get the deceptive peacock.  I will put on a happy face and present a calm, collected exterior while on the inside my emotions are just below the surface begging to come out.  I do the same with my husband.  You know how it goes, “Honey, are you ok, what’s wrong?”  “Nothing.  I’m fine.”  Nobody’s buying all that fakeness so stop trying to sell it!

Now, with my poor kiddos, beware of the screech owl!  Granted I don’t yell at my kids all the time, but definitely more than I should.  Nine times out of ten, the tirade begins after I’ve attempted to make my point calmly a time or five to no avail.  I let my anger get the best of me and just like a rubber-band that’s pulled taut, I snap.  Only to instantly feel ashamed and guilty that I could be so vicious with the most wonderful gifts I’ve ever been given.

There has to be a better way to deal with these out-of-control, reckless emotions…and that is my goal during these next 6 weeks.

I am curious as to which animal you all relate to best, that is if you are willing to share.  Either way, I invite you to examine yourself and be totally honest with how you are handling your relationships.  Are you being controlled by your emotions like I can sometimes be?  If so, whether you are doing this study along with us or not, let’s allow God to show us a better way to deal with the circumstances that trigger our unglued reactions.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”

(James 1:19-20 NLT)

 

~No, No, NO!!!~ October 22, 2013

Freeway Sign - Decision - Yes or NoIf any of you have ever been in the company of a 2-year-old for longer than five minutes, then you know that they bring a whole new meaning to the word ‘no’.

My youngest has developed a fondness for screaming it emphatically in my face every time I open my mouth.

“Bella, time to clean up.”  “NO!”

“You have to potty before we can leave.”  “NO!”

“We need to go pick up the big kids.”  “NO!”

It doesn’t matter what I say, she always says no.  Ok, maybe not everything.  If I ask her if she’d like a snack, that gets me a yes. But do you want to know what really bites?

She only does this to me.

If her daddy tells her to do something, she not only does it, she says “yes sir.”  What?!  She gets perfect reports at preschool and her Sunday school teacher calls her an angel.  My babysitter never has any trouble out of her.  I’m actually starting to form a complex over this.

Why is it that she is so agreeable when everyone else asks her to do something and so defiant when the request comes from me?

I was thinking about this yesterday while she was in the midst of one of her tirades and that’s when it came to me; don’t we do the same thing to God?

Your friends ask you out for coffee and you clear your schedule.  A committee from your child’s school calls and they are desperate for your skills so naturally you say yes.  It’s time for yet another fundraiser and you don’t hesitate to harass random people in an effort to raise the most money.

Now, what about God?

“Valerie, I want you to spend a little more time with me.”  “Sorry God, I’m just too busy.  Ask me again next week.”

“I want you to help build a new ministry for me.”  “That’s really not within my skillset, God, ask someone else please.”

“Go and make disciples of all the nations, teach them my commands and fear not, because I’m going to go with you.”  “I’m really not comfortable talking to strangers, especially about you, Jesus.  What if they get mad?  Better save discipleship for the pastors.”

Stings, doesn’t it?

Why are we so quick to accommodate everyone BUT God?  Even when someone asks us to do something we really don’t want to do, we do it anyway because we worry what they’ll think about us if we say no.  Don’t try to act like you don’t, everyone does it at least once in a while.  So why aren’t we worried what God thinks when we continually say no to Him?

When Bella has repeatedly told me no and her daddy comes home and she becomes a yes girl, it hurts my feelings.  It makes me think she loves him more.  It makes me wonder how much I matter to her when she refuses to listen to me but is so willing to please everyone else.

Is that how it makes God feel when He sees us saying yes to everyone around us and screaming no at Him?  We clear our day for our friends but won’t carve out an hour for God.  We’ll spend hours working on bulletin boards, holiday parties and teacher appreciation week but run from leading a devotion at small group or putting together a women’s (or men’s) bible study.  You go out and pound the pavement, selling donuts, wrapping paper, jewelry, etc., pleading your cause to get people to open their wallets.  Yet you won’t utter a word to the stranger who is clearly in need of encouragement to get them to open their hearts.

Maybe it’s time we say no to everyone else a little more to free us up to give God a yes for a change.

“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses.”

(Haggai 1:5-9 NLT)

 

~James Isaiah~ October 17, 2013

I’d like to begin by asking for your prayers.  We now, officially, have a teenager in the house!

Dear Lord, please give me grace to survive this difficult time.  Help me not to strangle him when he rolls his eyes at me.  And if it’s not asking too much, could you please not turn my hair gray all at once.  Thank you, Jesus and amen.

Now that we have that out of the way, HAPPY 13th BIRTHDAY, James Isaiah!!

Name meaning time!

James is my husband’s name as well as his father’s.  Knowing it was a biblical name, I was expecting it to mean something godly.  Substitute.  James means substitute.  I was a bit confused by this until I thought about the job of a substitute teacher.  They fill in for another, doing all the duties that one is unable to perform.  In other words, they stand in the gap for someone who needs assistance, for whatever reason.  While this may not always be the case with my son, (he is a teenager and they’re not always known for being the most helpful), he is wonderful with small children.  I’ll give you a perfect example.  Even though today is his birthday, a little league football coach has asked him to help run his practice after Isaiah attends his own hour and half football practice, and he willingly agreed.  This coach sought his help because the younger boys look up to him and it inspires them to play harder.  I’d say that sums up what a substitute does rather well.

Isaiah is probably one of my husband’s favorite books in the bible.  He chose this name for his son.  It is the name that he answers to, unless he’s in trouble in which case he gets the 3 name holler.  It is one of my favorite name meanings for my children.  Isaiah means God’s helper.  Yes and Amen.  That is exactly what I desire for my young man.  He already shows a willingness to help with church activities and I pray that as he grows physically, his desire to serve the Lord will develop as well.  There is nothing that matters to me more in his life than raising him to be a godly man.

I love you, muchos, Izzy!  I am so proud of the young man that you already are and beyond excited that I have the privilege of watching you continue to grow and mature.

Daddy & his boys (birthday boy is in the middle)

Daddy & his boys (birthday boy is in the middle)

“…for you are a chosen people. You are (a) royal priest, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

(1 Peter 2:9 NLT)

 

~Light A Candle~ October 15, 2013

1in4In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October as National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month.  Since that time, this day specifically, October 15th, has been set aside to remember those sweet babies who are in Heaven with Jesus instead of in their mommy’s arms.

If you are one of the thousands of women who have suffered this painful loss or know someone who has, tonight at 7pm, light a candle in their memory.

Mourning is a very peculiar emotion and we all handle it differently.  No matter the stage of grief you are in, know that there is hope for a future.

I have written about my own personal experience with this in my blog Life After Loss .  I would invite you all to read it and feel free to share anything of your own experience as well.  It is through the encouragement of other women & the love of the Father that we find our strength to go on when it seems impossible.

“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.” ~President Reagan

 

~My Lost Sheep~ October 14, 2013

Not too long ago I thought my baby girl was gone.

I had fallen asleep on the couch and when I woke, my husband had already gone to bed.  So I turned off the tv and headed downstairs.  I looked in on the little girls and realized very quickly that Bella was not in her bed.  It startled me, but I figured she had climbed into bed with her sister which she does rather often.  As I got closer, I could see that Emma was sleeping soundly…alone.  Now my heart was racing.  I checked under both beds, nothing.  I ran into our room and felt around my husband, hoping to find her curled up with her daddy.  Nada.

At this point, panic set in.  I shook my husband awake and informed him our baby was gone.  How bout that to wake you from a dead sleep?

I bolted back up the stairs, retracing my steps, checking every door and window along the way finding each one securely locked.  I flipped on every light in the house and made sure that the other children were all safe in their beds.  It brought me no comfort to find 4 sleeping peacefully because one was still nowhere to be found.

I could hear my husband downstairs checking every possible hiding place, including the dryer.  I rushed back through the dining room ready to call 911 when I caught a glimpse of a white blankie.  I hit my knees and looked under the table.  There was my little Bella, laying on her belly, booty in the air, out like a light.

As I scooped her up all I could do was thank God that she was ok.

After we got her settled back in her own bed, I was obviously wide awake.  Who could sleep after an episode like that?!  It occurred to me in the wee hours of the morning that during the frantic search, it mattered very little to me that my other kids were all ok.  All of my energy was focused on the one that was not.  That’s when a very familiar story came to mind.

“Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

lost sheep

(Luke 15:3-7 NIV)

Just as I rejoiced more over finding my “lost sheep”, the heaven’s erupt with praise when a sinner finds their way to Jesus.  It’s not that I wasn’t thankful that my other kids were exactly where they were supposed to be, nor do the righteous escape the attention of our Lord.  But something unexplainable happens when the lost are found.  Feelings of relief, gratitude and exuberance flooded my heart that night.  And so it is every single time a child is found by the Father through the act of repentance.